What’s it like to work in the tech sector and continue recruiting during a global pandemic?


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  • Sync NI spoke to Emma Mullan, Talent and Development Manager at Liberty IT to see how the landscape of Northern Ireland’s IT industry has changed her role

    Tell us a little about your role in Liberty IT

    As Talent and Development Manager in Liberty IT, I am responsible for the Talent Acquisition and Learning and Development functions and I oversee the Talent Management activities for the organisation. 

    I love that my role impacts our employee brand in the market, and that we are right there at the beginning of an employee’s journey with us. I’m proud that my team add so much value in terms of employee experience, from recruiting, onboarding, an employee's career and their personal development.

    Were many Liberty IT employees interested in upskilling and personal development opportunities over lockdown?

    We moved quickly to 100% remote learning within a matter of days following lockdown. This has meant we continued to offer learning and development opportunities, workshops, tech talks, conferences etc to employees as originally planned. Leveraging Microsoft Teams and many virtual whiteboards (!), we have completed over 20 different courses since March. We continue to encourage our teams to consider AWS accreditation as part of their development plans. 

    Liberty is a huge investor in personal development, and it’s been an exciting year for me personally as I have been fortunate to have been part of a Global Leadership Development Programme through 2019 and 2020. Within the organisation this year, I have been leading out on some exciting initiatives, including the introduction of technical coaching, the launch of an organisation-wide consultancy programme, and getting some focus on planning for critical skills needed for in future. 

    What areas in particular would you say the majority of employees have wanted to upskill in? 

    We are very much operating as business as usual, with projects continuing to be delivered from our Belfast and Dublin teams for our customers across the world. However, we always ensure teams have time for innovation sprints and learning and development. In addition to an increase in AWS accreditation, we’ve also seen an increased demand for all our “classroom” courses, ranging from specific technical training to professional skills training, such as communication skills, resilience building and commercial awareness courses.  

    Upskilling our leaders has been front of mind also, all our people managers have recently attended a 2 day “Leading at Liberty” workshop.  

    Our employees are also taking full advantage of our online learning offerings within Pluralsight, Safari and LinkedIn learning.

    How do you think the recruitment and talent development departments within Liberty IT (and indeed, across NI’s tech sector) will change post lockdown? 

    We’ve continued to recruit and onboard employees throughout COVID-19, with the employee experience front and centre. We are delighted to have our 2020 graduate and intern programme intake join us in July as usual, we have been working hard to ensure their virtual onboarding experience is as engaging as possible.  

    Like many, we’ve moved our recruitment process into the virtual world. I believe some of this will continue post lockdown – most of us are much more comfortable communicating in an online meeting now, plus the feedback from our candidates and new employees has been great. We’ve learned a lot from shifting to an all-virtual model. We will be carrying through lots of efficiencies and improvements to our “normal” processes in the future.

    From a talent development point of view, on demand training and development opportunities are giving our employees more flexibility to learn when it works for them and as the technology continues to develop and enhance the experience, I believe we will see more online learning as an alternative method to traditional classroom learning. I also think that we have all been positively surprised at just how well we can run virtual workshops, with learning outcomes the same if not better in some cases. While there will always be a need for some in person sessions, what this move to virtual has taught me is that we can overcome obstacles like distance, and training room availability and cost quite easily! 

    What are the most positive things to have come out of lockdown for Liberty IT, talent and development wise? 

    Liberty IT has always embraced flexible working, with significant volumes of employees (including myself) working from home regularly and amending hours to work for them and their families. 

    We will continue to trial and launch new development programmes and initiatives, and in June we launched a new intranet experience across the organisation as well as a new self-service driven Talent platform – it’s been a busy time!

    For our team now, it’s about how we can continue to support our teams with the tools, programmes and the technology to keep enhancing and personalising their experience of working within our organisation.

    For me, lockdown has forced myself and my family to look at ways to have more balance. Although at times it's been a struggle to work full time with young children at home, Liberty IT has been exceptionally flexible and I’ve been able to adjust hours to suit family life. This has been time of reflection, a time to appreciate the simple things and of spending that quality time with my family. That said, I’m looking forward to some normality returning! My daughter Alice is starting preschool in a few weeks and my son Michael is looking forward to getting back to school to see his pals – we will see how long that lasts! 

    Will working from home continue to be offered by Liberty IT?

    Absolutely. With schools starting with only a few days a week, ensuring we continue to support our teams with flexibility is incredibly important. We are hoping to be back in the office with a reduced team on a voluntary basis from the Autumn, but like many, we are using this experience to experiment and test new ways of working. 

    We’ve recently launched “no meeting Fridays” which is great for focus time and like me, many are working outside the standard office hours. Being a parent and working full time is hard enough to balance, so I am extremely proud to work for an organization who always tells us to put family first.

    About Emma Mullan

    A senior HR professional with nearly 20 years’ experience in the Talent and Recruitment fields. Currently Emma is Talent & Development Manager with Liberty IT, a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Insurance, a Fortune 100 company. Prior to joining Liberty IT, Emma worked in Dublin for 10 years as a HR Delivery Manager/BP for eir and Resourcing Manager for Meteor Mobile Communications.

    Emma is married to Stephen and they have two children together, Michael, aged eight and Alice, aged three. She loves music, art and has recently rediscovered the joys of cycling with the kids!  

    This article first appeared in the summer edition of the Sync NI magazine and it can be found here.

    About the author

    An article that is attributed to Sync NI Team has either involved multiple authors, written by a contributor or the main body of content is from a press release.

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